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Baltimore Orioles: Are pitches being tipped?

The Baltimore Orioles suffered yet another blowout loss this evening, this time to Houston. Starter Aaron Brooks certainly set the tone for the game, but he only gave up nine runs. When all was said and done Houston had put up 23. Brooks’ line: 3.0 IP, 9 H, 9 R, 0 BB, 3 K.

Most people look at that stat line and say that at the very least Brooks didn’t walk anyone. And that’s certainly true. However looks can be deceiving. That means that Brooks was putting balls into the strike zone. And in essence, getting too much of the strike zone. The same was true of every subsequent Oriole pitcher.

I admittedly fall into the mindset that a two-out base hit isn’t the worst thing in the world. It’s only one base runner; if they can just get one out the inning is over. However Houston routinely makes people pay for that attitude.

They also find ways to get on base. A couple of their runs came off of two very softly hit balls. Several more came when a ball dropped between three different fielder’s. They put the ball in play, and and they run. Incidentally, the lone Oriole runs in this game came on a sac-fly RBI by Jace Peterson in the last of the first, and a solo homer in the seventh by Rio Ruiz.

The O’s gave up five homers in this game – yet again. Often I wonder in stretches like this if pitches aren’t being tipped. Obviously both Houston and New York are gifted in terms of hitting. However it should be fairly telling that hitters seem to know exactly what’s coming. And where.

The where part of that could be the key. In this game specifically, we saw Correa hit a home run over both bullpens in left center. Unofficially, that’s a new Camden Yards homer at 474 feet. I’m not suggesting that Oriole pitchers are doing their job in deceiving opposing hitters – that fact speaks for itself. But in order to hit balls that far, you’d have to know where the pitch is coming in. And maybe even how fast.

Mind you, I’m NOT accusing anyone of stealing signs. We all know that happens in baseball (not that it should), but that isn’t what I’m saying. I’m wondering if the Orioles themselves aren’t doing something to tip pitches. Something subtle, on which opposing teams are picking up. Perhaps positioning of a fielder, or something along those lines.

Again, to me the telling part is that the balls are traveling as far as they’re going. It’s not so much about speed. Stevie Wilkerson proves that when he pitches – as he did again tonight. He pitches very slowly. That actually throws off hitters trying to make contact. But if a hitter knows where the pitch is going, he can position the bat to make contact.

It might behoove the Orioles to take a long hard look at how their pitchers are winding up among other things. Because if pitches are being tipped, it’s going to continue happening. And that’s certainly not the goal.

One thing that is worth mentioning is that Houston decided it was appropriate to challenge a call of safe/out at second base up by 14 runs or so in the sixth inning. My personal opinion is that it’s probably poor form to be that nit-picky when you’re winning in a blowout.

In contrast, Houston recorded a double down the left field line in the ninth inning (against Wilkerson). Replays seemed to show that the ball was foul. There were two outs and the Orioles trailed big – no challenge was lodged. Similarly, I fee that’s appropriate. That call isn’t going to affect the outcome of the game. Of course…That runner at second base allowed Houston to score three more runs in the game. Not sure what to say about any of that.

The series and the home stand conclude tomorrow. Asher Wojchiekowski gets the call for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Houston’s Justin Verlander. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

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